Nel's New Day

October 11, 2018

United States, A Banana Republic

“Banana Republic” is a term to describe governments with countries that suffer from lack of democracy and corruption. How the United States fits the description of a “banana republic”:

An extremely stratified social class with a large impoverished working class and an ultra-rich ruling-class plutocracy with a lack of a middle class and lack of upward mobility: The U.S. has had the highest income inequality and lowest upward mobility of any country in the developed world for several years, and it keeps worsening.

Government’s corrupt connection with big business: As in fascist countries, U.S. conservative politicians have supported the merger of state and corporate power by removing regulations, giving corporations billions of dollars in tax cuts and subsidies, and putting banks and corporations above the law. The person occupying the Oval Office is profiting with millions—possibly trillions—from domestic groups and foreign government encouraged to use his businesses despite his constitutional violation of the Emoluments Clause.

A male business, political, and military elite controlling the nation: In a circular pattern, politicians take money from business for campaigns in exchange for subserviency, and conservative politicians vote for increased military expenses to keep money flowing into their states. Lack of regulations moves wealth offshore while workers suffer. Conservative politicians put white conservative males into control on the courts, protecting only white males and big business and permitting illegal tax evasion. All new DDT judicial nominees are male, recognizing that “we the ruling males” are in charge instead of the constitutional “we the people.” Less than one-third of the U.S. population is white male, but they still control the nation.

Police corruption and expanding police state: The frequent pattern of using military equipment for police actions is like military actions in Iraq, and law enforcement increasingly kill people in “accidents” or badly orchestrated sting operations. Laws since 9/11 permit warrantless wiretapping and other tactics common in dictatorships.

Highest incarceration rate in the world: The 716 prisoners per 100,000 residents in the U.S. far exceed the 114 in Canada, the 79 in German, and even the 162 in Saudi Arabia. Privatized prisons have greatly increased the number of prisoners because the government gets kickbacks from these businesses for their campaigns that keep them the ruling party.

Lack of access to healthcare: Despite the Affordable Care Act, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) created a path to health insurance that doesn’t provide for pre-existing conditions, hospitalizations, maternal care, and other health needs by conning them into believing that they save money. DDT’s newest plan is like a person paying less for a car that doesn’t run. People in the U.S. pay more than most developed countries for healthcare expenses and are reduced to medical bankruptcies but are convinced that universal health care is evil.

Much shorter life expectancy in poor than wealthy: In one West Virginia county, life expectancy for males is 63.9 years compared to 81.6 years, 17.7 years higher, in affluent Fairfax County (VA)—a difference of 27 percent. Bangladesh life expectancy is higher than McDowell County (WV). U.S. women’s life expectancy was #41 in 2010.

Hunger and malnutrition: Banana republics are associated with food insecurity, but the need for food stamps in the U.S. has increased from one in 50 during the 1970s to one in eight with 50 million people, including 12 million children, suffering from food insecurity.

High infant mortality: Fifty-seven countries have a smaller infant mortality rate than the U.S. In first-day death rate, babies dying the day that they are born, the U.S. has the highest rate in the industrialized world, twice as many as in the European Union.

One idealistic view of saving the United States is to vote, and millions of people want to exercise their right to select their representatives in this republic. Yet conservative politicians block the ability for millions to vote. Beyond white males rigging the districts so that a state with a majority of Democrats will elect almost all Republicans for state and federal elected officials, voter ID laws that prevent people from voting. The following states have created these ways to keep people from voting:

Arizona: Secretary of State Michele Reagan won’t be required to update voter registration addresses of 384,000 Arizonans who moved since the last election, even if the Motor Vehicle Division system won’t change addresses until people “opt-in” to update their information in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act. When people show up at the wrong polling place because of Reagan’s inaction, the voter can go to the new address and cast a provisional ballot. The state, however, has a record of destroying these without recording them. Reagan said that she’ll fix the system sometime next year—after the midterm election. Maybe.

Florida: Whether prisoners and released felons can vote is dependent on state law. A few states don’t have restrictions against voting after the felons serve their sentence, but a few rely on “individual petitions.” Of the 6 million people with felony convictions permanently barred from voting, about 1.5 million of them are from Florida, and over 20 percent of them are black. Gov. Rick Scott is in charge of deciding whether each one can be permitted to vote, and he has granted only 8 percent of those requesting the right to vote with a backlog of over 10,000 not yet reviewed.

Georgia: Brian Kemp is the state Secretary of State and in charge of elections. Kemp is also running for governor. He is keeping 53,000 voter applications from being processed because of typographical errors. The list has a disproportionately high number of black voters. Kemp’s opponent is Stacey Abrams, a black woman. Because Kemp is in charge of elections, there is no proof that he legitimately won the primary to become candidate in the general election, especially after indications of voting corruption within the past few years. Kemp is also being sued for using a racially-biased methodology to purge 700,000 voters from the rolls in the past two years and failing to send notices of the removal to voters. That’s ten percent of registered voters. Kemp also kept the state from having a paper trail to its woefully inadequate digital voting system, allowing him more election corruption.

North Dakota: A state law, challenged but approved in court, mandates that all voter IDs have residential addresses. Even the Supreme Court thinks that people without street addresses should not have the right to vote. This law takes voting rights from the homeless and people living on Native American reservations who lack the “residential address.”

Texas: Delivering a letter demanding that Waller County address its problems with rejecting registrations of students at Prairie View A&M resulted in the arrest of the campaign staffer presenting the missive to a clerk. Jacob Aronowitz, a field director for Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel, photographed the clerk taking the letter, and the clerk objected. When he was arrested, Aronowitz called Siegal who heard Aronowitz asking why he was being held and telling the detaining officer that his lawyer, Siegel, was running for office. Aronowitz was asked for Siegel’s political party, and the officer kept Aronowitz’s phone with his records when he was released. The county gave students the address to use for registration because all students use one post office box and then refused to accept it on the last day to register, jeopardizing the registrations. The letter demanded that the county update the existing registrations because students had followed the county’s direction. Waller County is uncomfortable with students voting because the student body is 82 percent black while the county is 70.5 percent white. It opposed students’ right to vote until a 1979 case in the U.S. Supreme Court upheld students’ right to register at their college address. The county wouldn’t obey the high court ruling, declaring in 2004 that students were ineligible to vote because they failed to meet the residency requirement. The campus did not get a polling place until 2013. So the county, which does not want the students to vote, gave them the wrong address for registration, refused to accept the address they gave students, arrested a person obtaining verification that he delivered a letter of complaint, lied about his not identifying himself, asked for the political party of the person objecting, and refused to return the arrested party’s possessions when he was released.

Voting could help move the United States from a banana republic—if citizens get the permission to cast a ballot and their ballots are counted. Until that time, the U.S. will remain a banana republic.

September 13, 2013

U.S. Exceptionalism All Negative

Many in the U.S. have taken exception to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin taking exception at President Obama’s statement “I believe in American exceptionalism.” So how is the United States exceptional?

The health care in this country is exceptional because it’s costly with poorer outcomes than other countries. People in the U.S. spend almost 18 percent of the country’s GDP on health care, one and half as much as any other OECD country and twice as much as the average. 

health care expenditure

At the same time, about 50 million people in the U.S., almost 15 percent of the population. In other developed nations, 100 percent of the people have health care. In addition, many other people in the U.S. who have health insurance put off getting healthcare because of high deductibles and copayments. Obamacare  won’t solve the problem, but it attempts to remediate it. Personally I take exception to GOP members of the House who waste my taxpayer money by continually voting against helping people as they did again yesterday afternoon.

The U.S. is 33rd in life expectancy and 34th in infant mortality. This nation has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world—68 other countries. It is estimated that 45,000 people died each year because lack of access to medical care. People in the U.S. pay twice as much for medications as people in Canada or Europe, and 30 percent of every healthcare dollar is spent on administrative costs. In comparison, Taiwan spends a little over 6 percent of GDP on healthcare with better outcomes in some key indicators. Medicare in the U.S., a single-payer system similar to that in most other developed countries, has administrative costs of about 3 percent.

Adolescents die at higher rates from car crashes and homicides, and they have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections. People in the U.S. have the highest incidence of AIDS, the highest obesity rates, the highest diabetes rates among adults 20 and older, the highest rates of chronic lung disease and heart disease and drug-related deaths.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in which workers are not legally entitled to paid leave—even vacation time. European nations typically provide five weeks; Germany gives almost seven weeks. Almost one-fourth of the U.S. workers get no time at all. Germany’s decreasing unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, and the average hourly wage has gone up more than 4 percent in the last three years. Wages in the U.S. have barely gone up, and the 7.4 percent unemployment rate is unhealthy for the economy. U.S. workers put in 1,800 a year while German workers work an average of 1,400 hours per year.

U.S. productivity rose by 80 percent from 1973 to 2011 while compensation went up barely 12 percent with no increase since 2000, despite a 23-percent productivity increase in that time.

The United States provides no maternity leave, compared to most of the other countries in the world.

paid-maternal-leave-by-country With a child poverty rate of 20-25 percent, the United States rates 34th out of 35 countries. (Romania is below the U.S.) Map

 child-poverty-rates

The United States is exceptional in having the most millionaires and billionaires who have collected more of the planets assets than any other country. Yet the U.S. is #27 in middle-class wealth. Adding all assets such as homes and bank accounts before subtracting liabilities such as loans and other debts gives the best indicator of individual and family prosperity. As the following chart shows, 26 other countries have a higher media wealth than the U.S.

Middle Class wealth

Incarceration is higher in the United States than in other countries such as Russia, Cuba, Iran, or China. The lock-up rate is ten times what it is in Norway and more than that in Japan and Iceland. Several states in this nation lock up people for debt, and private corporations count on “growth” models to increase their profits. In Arizona, for example, the state guaranteed full prisons when private companies built them.

 The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rates in the world and the second highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations. These two things are related, looking at developed nations shows that the higher the rate of gun ownership, the more people die from gun wounds.

The U.S. ranks 23rd in wage distribution, 22nd in gender equality, and 29th in intellectual property protection. The U.S. ranks 10th in purchasing power of minimum wage and 11th in minimum wage. The nation also ranks 125th in GDP growth per capita. Out of 24 nations, the U.S. ranked between 19th and 23rd in critical areas of health, education, and material well-being.

The United States is now 9th in the world in Internet speed, down one place from last year. South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Netherlands, Latvia, Czech Republic, and Sweden are above the U.S. Yet this country charges more for Internet use that these other countries.

The United States does rank first in the world in death by violence. The U.S. is also exceptional among the industrialized world for having the only president who claims the right to execute citizens without due process in the U.S. post-constitutional philosophy. For other ratings, check out the Global Competitiveness Report for 2012-2013.

In lashing out at Putin’s response to President Obama’s threatened attack on Syria, Putin wrote that claiming the exceptionalism of America is “dangerous”:

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Because of Russia’s vicious anti-LGBT laws that cause physical harm and death to those perceived to be LGBT, Rep. Nancy Pelosi used Putin’s words to attack him when she said:

“He says that we are all God’s children. I think that’s great. I hope it applies to gays and lesbians in Russia as well.”

In the nationalistic craving for U.S. exceptionalism, Pelosi and many others forget that LGBT people can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity in over 30 states, they cannot be married in 37 states, and the federal government is denying Social Security benefits to all married same-sex couples who do not live in one of the jurisdictions that have not yet legalized marriage equality. By comparison 14 countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage.

Before getting into a contest about whether the United States is “exceptional,” people might work toward making it so—in a good way and not just in high rates of mortality, bad health, hunger, poverty, income inequality, and incarceration.

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